Marquise is a promising young athlete in the prime of life when he suffers a spinal cord injury after an accident. He must stay in the hospital and recover, as well as undergo occupational therapy to regain as much of his basic physical skills as possible.
Angry and frustrated, Marquise struggles to reconcile his sense of self-worth with his new status as a paraplegic. But the journey to acceptance is hard, though with the help of his hospital roommate and his physical therapist, he begins to find his way.
This rich, expressive drama — directed by Andrew Reid, and written by Reid and Roberto Saieh — portrays one young man’s transition from struggle to acceptance, as he navigates a “new normal” that is antithetical to the person he was, and wanted to be.
Though it is far from bombastic, the film’s visual approach and style isn’t afraid to be striking or arresting, even expressionistic. This isn’t a subtle, quiet film, but one that wears its emotions on its sleeve, reflecting the temperament and predicament of its main character. The lighting and colors are often rich and saturated, matching the heightened emotion of the film, and the camerawork is equally distinctive. Though most of the film is confined to the hospital setting, the richness of the images makes for a dynamic dramatic experience, matching Marquise’s emotional arc.
“ASIA A” refers to the classification given to Marquise, based on a system of tests developed by the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA). These tests — based on how much sensation someone can feel at multiple points on the body, as well as the motor function — define and describe the severity of a patient’s spinal cord injury. The classification also helps determine future rehabilitation and recovery approaches.
Marquise has the most severe grade, thanks to a complete lack of motor and sensory function below the level of his injury. “Ballers” actor London Brown nails Marquise’s anger and frustration in a performance that’s free of vanity: filled with anger and resentment, he’s not afraid to lash out at the people who love or support him. But eventually he must face the truth — not just the truth about his physical limitations, but his emotional reality as well. In doing so, he finds his true strength.
Set to be developed as a feature with the help of the prestigious Tribeca Film Institute and Sloan Foundation, “ASIA A” is clearly a personal film. Writer-director Reid became paralyzed from the chest down at age 21. Told by doctors that he would never walk again, Reid regained movement and today walks with a cane, continuing to progress in strength and health and going on to study in the MFA film program at USC.
“ASIA A” serves as a valuable window into an experience not everyone may go through. But through the film’s boldness and honesty, many will find it — and its portrayal of struggle and strength to overcome a limitation — inspiring and almost universal.